Abbé de Coulmier  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

François Simonet de Coulmier (September 30, 1741 – June 4, 1818) was a French Catholic priest and abbot, and the director of the Charenton insane asylum in France in the early 19th century. He was often criticized for his "overly liberal" methods of treatment, as he favored allowing patients the right to express themselves via art, and discouraged the more primitive habits of crude physical restraint and punishment of mental patients of the day.

Coulmier was born at Dijon. His semi-enlightened administration of Charenton was of concern to France's medical establishment, which opposed Coulmier because he was not a medical doctor. He did not believe in many of the treatment practices which are nowadays termed brutal, including locking patients in a wicker cage, making use of straitjackets and using terror baths. He also employed treatments that at the time were considered quite advanced, including diets, bleeding, and purges. After Napoleon's fall and the restoration of the Bourbons, Coulmier was relieved of his duties, probably because of his revolutionary past.

Despite his significant work in psychotherapy, today de Coulmier is known primarily for his interactions with the Marquis de Sade, having been the asylum director when Sade was institutionalized. Coulmier provided Sade with writing supplies, permitted Sade's wife to live in the asylum, and allowed Sade to produce a play which featured other asylum residents as actors.

In the film Quills, he was portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix; this drew criticism on the part of historians and disabled activists, as the real Coulmier was extremely short, and has been described as a hunchback. Coulmier is also represented in Peter Weiss's famous play The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Abbé de Coulmier" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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